I LOVE when things are organized. So it was quite overwhelming when I started to learn Chinese a few years ago. At the beginning (actually, it was quite longer than that) I couldn’t find order in characters nor meaning in sentences and everything seemed really chaotic.

So I tried to make my own notes and organize everything as much as was possible. 

At first, I made notes in which I grouped together nouns, verbs, adjectives, and everything alike. But as you learn more and more, things don’t make sense anymore. In what category should you put a character that can behave as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and a number at the same time?

I needed a new system and I figured alphabetical order might work. I was really invested in writing a perfect sheet of paper with all the words I learned. One day in class I found out some characters have different pronunciations, and I was once again at the square one.

I even had a phase when I tried to group all the words according to character components, but I’d rather not talk about it. 

It’s been a long journey and the best method I found is the one I’m going to share with you. My notes made the most sense when everything was organized in regard to tones. Although this has some limitations, I noticed I can remember a lot more tones than I used to, which is a really cool bonus. 

Cheat sheets I used over the years